On the Politics Show, Sunday 5 October 2008, Jon Sopel interviewed the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson: The message is, I want to make sure that the City of London, which contributes 9% of UK GDP, 13% of value added, is not accidentally incapacitated by any kind of punitive raid on the very many bad bankers there have obviously been, on the very many greedy bankers there have obviously been. We would be cutting off our nose to spite our face, we would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or supply any other metaphor you want. That's a mistake we must not make.
Jon Sopel: So David Cameron was right, then, essentially, when he said they have been simply irresponsible, paid themselves too much who when things went wrong came sort of running to the state asking to be bailed out?
Boris Johnson: There have been gross excesses, and there's no doubt now, Jon, that we are in a very weird ideological position, where we appear to be adopting a kind of Chinese approach to capitalism, and you know the state is trying to save banks around the world by coming in and taking stakes in them, and it is a very difficult moment, and nobody has all the answers. And it's certainly true that we run the risk of incurring a great deal of moral hazard if we, if the state endlessly steps in and picks up the tab. On the other hand if you don't do that, and if you don't come in to shore up the financial system then there is a real risk of an economic crash, of an economic crunch, that will affect absolutely everybody.
Jon Sopel: How many of the business leaders that you're meeting today do you think will support the Conservative stance that there shouldn't be a third runway at Heathrow Airport?
Boris Johnson: It's very interesting. There are lots of different views amongst the business community. And obviously you hear businessmen saying I want the convenience of coming in to Heathrow, but what they really mean is they want Heathrow to be improved, and they want the experience of coming in to Terminal 5 to be better - although actually the truth is it has got far, far better - if you go through Terminal 5 now it is a wonderful thing.
So they want Heathrow to work well. The point I make to them is quite simply that if you want London to be liveable, you've got to think about the interests of millions of Londoners who are overflown by flights coming into Heathrow. And there will be many more millions of flights coming into Heathrow if we build a third runway. It will erode the quality of life for people in London. I do think that we have to think of a different solution.
And I think that there's growing business support for that case. Indeed I heard, I was very pleased to hear several of the more forward-thinking businessmen - they're all forward-thinking - but several of them today supporting my proposal which is that we should look at the possibility of dragging in from the pages of science fiction the idea of a new airport in the Thames Estuary, which would be cleaner, greener and provide a long-term solution to our aviation needs.
Jon Sopel: David Cameron doesn't support it.
Boris Johnson: That's news to me. I think David Cameron's idea not to go ahead with the third runway is extremely wise, and I wholly support the idea of more high speed rail links, I think that's quite right, but I think also you've got to look at Britain, London's international competitiveness, and you know if you like it or not people are going to want to fly from this country and to this country and therefore I think you've got to built up our aviation capacity around London and look at the Thames estuary.
Jon Sopel: I want to ask you about Sir Ian Blair. Do you not owe it to Londoners to explain why you thought it was right, and time for Sir Ian Blair to go. Not just to say, you know you've done well, what had Ian Blair done wrong?
Boris Johnson: Let me just say that I've already tried to give Londoners a feeling for the thoughts animating, actuating my decision, and it was really all to do with - you know it was a discussion I had with Sir Ian, and it was his decision by the way, there's no constitutional way that the Mayor of London can relieve the commissioner...
Jon Sopel: Sir Ian Blair's friends are making it pretty clear that you called for him to go.
Boris Johnson: Well, I certainly said that I thought it was time for new leadership and time for someone to offer, you know, real focus on the interests of Londoners and I want to...
Jon Sopel: Let me interrupt you...
Boris Johnson: Let me just complete the thought. I want as Mayor to guarantee the operational effectiveness of the Metropolitan Police, and it does seem to me that this is a good time to offer someone else the chance to do that.
Jon Sopel: Okay, you talk about the importance of new leadership. What you haven't explained is what is wrong with the old leadership, and don't Londoners demand an explanation for that?
Boris Johnson: I understand that. I think it's pretty obvious from much of the commentary and much of the analysis, what I think was going wrong, but suffice it to say that I think obviously it's difficult for me because one of the considerations that Sir Ian and I went into was we didn't want to go into a lengthy analysis publicly of the whys and wherefores of a decision that I think and he agrees is the best thing for London, but suffice it to say that, you know, I do think it is time for someone, a new leader, to focus with the police on the issues that really matter to Londoners, and not to be distracted, you know. That was the worry, there were too many distractions, and I think Sir Ian accepts that as much as anybody.
Jon Sopel: Just like what, what distractions?
Boris Johnson: Jon, I think I've been very obliging to you in diverting myself from a, and trying to explain some of the things I want done with the business community, but I said just now that Sir Ian and I agreed that we wouldn't go into an item by item analysis of the whys and wherefores, and there's been an awful lot in the papers about it. I don't propose to go over it now, and you know I'd much rather talk about what we're going to do to make London safer in the future, which you'll see on Monday when I chair the MPA.
Jon Sopel: Okay, but haven't you set the precedent now that commissioners of Metropolitan police will come and go depending on the political colours flying over City Hall?
Boris Johnson: No, codswallop, tripe, balderdash, absolute codswallop. Some of the things I've read have been on the wilder shores of fantasy. This was simply a decision reached as a result of a discussion about how to improve the operational effectiveness of the Metropolitan Police and give someone else the chance to offer new leadership in London.
Jon Sopel: Interrupts
Boris Johnson: I'd much rather talk? I've sucked that lemon dry, Jon.
Jon Sopel: Sir Norman Bettison, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, has ruled himself out of applying for the job precisely because he said there is political interference. 'The dislodging of Sir Ian Blair is a demonstration of political will. Along this road lies danger.' So is he talking complete balderdash and piffle and whatever other words you used?
Boris Johnson: Well I don't want to be disrespectful to the gentleman in question but it is my view that no constitutional precedent has been set. The discussion about the appointment of the new commissioner will be a matter between me and the Home Secretary and the normal procedures will be followed.
Jon Sopel: Boris Johnson, thank you very much indeed.
Boris Johnson: Thank you. I want to say something about roadworks and what the business people of London really care about. Can we do that, before we go?
Jon Sopel: Go on.
Boris Johnson: There are two very, very important points that the businessfolk who are meeting today in City Hall want to make, and I want to use your good offices to make this point to the government. We have an opportunity now to have a permit scheme for roadworks, to stop people digging up the roads without so much as a by your leave. Us, we in City Hall, together with 14 boroughs, have written to the government to try to get this thing moving.
They are shilly-shallying and delaying, and the risk is we won't get a permit scheme now until 2009 or 2010. This is something that could radically improve the lives of Londoners. If we didn't have so many roadworks, if we were able to curtail the time at which they blocked the streets, we could get traffic flowing more smoothly and improve the lives of Londoners. So I hope the government will take that message on board and drop their ludicrous opposition to our permit scheme.
And a second point I want to make is a very, very important point, is that a lot of top businesses now are worried about the tax regime, particularly tax on foreign profits, which is driving many important corporations away from this city and from this country. It's a disastrous mistake - we've got 40 FTSE 100 companies already thinking of following WPP, the vast advertising concern that has just re-located to Dublin. The government needs to rethink.
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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.
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The Politics Show Sunday 5 October 2008 at 1200BST on BBC One.
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